crash landing | 

‘Kind’ Irishman faces deportation from US after drone runs out of batteries

Ricky told a NYPD detective that he was using the drone solely to take photos and that the battery unexpectedly ran out

Riccardo ‘Ricky’ Pellecchia

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A love of photography has led to a popular Irishman facing deportation from the US after authorities became aware of his undocumented status.

Riccardo ‘Ricky’ Pellecchia, of Co Louth, had been living in NYC for more than a decade, having overstayed admission on a 90-day visa waiver.

The photography buff is now in the Orange County Correctional Facility of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Goshen, New York for the past two weeks, awaiting his fate.

His hobby involved flying a drone to capture images of the Manhattan skyline and sunsets but one day in July, its battery went dead and it landed on property operated by electrical utility Con Edison.

When he went to retrieve the drone, members of the New York Police Department who had been contacted by Con Ed personnel about the sudden landing approached him.

He told a NYPD detective that he was using the drone solely to take photos and that the battery unexpectedly ran out, which appeared to satisfy the officer.

However, he was later contacted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force who questioned him and they too were convinced the drone was being used purely for recreational purposes.

It was not long after that when ICE contacted Pellecchia to set up an interview. When Pellecchia left his home on the morning of his appointment, there were four ICE cars waiting for him outside. He was taken to the Manhattan field office at 26 Federal Plaza before being sent to Goshen where he remains.

His attorney obtained a temporary stay of deportation, but because Pellecchia entered the US under the visa waiver program, he is not entitled to post bond or plead his case before a US immigration judge.

“Ricky doesn’t have so much as a traffic ticket to his name here or in Ireland,” Pellecchia’s attorney Michael Nappo told the Irish Voice, sister publication to Irish Central.

“With catch and release in New York and bail reform, courts are letting violent criminals back on the street. But Ricky has to stay in a correctional facility and his friends and family think it’s very unfair, especially when busloads of people who illegally crossed the southern border are being sent to New York and given housing.”

Pellecchia’s friends have organised a petition calling for his release on that has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

They say Pellecchia is a selfless, productive member of the Queens Irish American community who happily lends a helping hand to anyone in need.

Employed by an Irish bar in Queens, Pellecchia is “very upset” about the sudden turn his life has taken, Nappo said.

“It’s been very difficult for him. He has not been mistreated, but not being able to get in front of an immigration judge, or even to post bond, is very frustrating.”

Pellecchia’s friends have sent a letter to local politicians seeking an intervention in his case. They outlined his many contributions to the community, and how his deportation would be a significant loss.

“Ricky has become a social pillar of the community. His mild temperament and straight-talking nature have seen him become a truly great friend to many. He is a sounding board for problems, a friendly ear for advice, and a shoulder to cry on when called on,” the letter said.

“It is in his nature to want to help any and every one if he can, going above and beyond in most cases while asking nothing in return.

"He has provided a sense of community for many in the bar, both Irish and American, particularly for those who find themselves alone in this country. It is no exaggeration to say he has become like a son to many patrons of the bar.”

The letter continues, “Not satisfied with helping only those he comes into direct contact with, Ricky has always been willing to use his network to benefit charities.

“This work has seen him directly contribute to raising significant sums of money over the past 12 years, where the monies raised have benefitted both members of the American community over here and his native Ireland.

"This is not a man who sat back for 12 years and took from this country, the reality is he contributed all he could without thinking about it and asked little if nothing in return.

“To summarize, Ricky, Riccardo Pellecchia, is not a criminal. He is an individual who finds himself in a bad situation. He is a son, a brother, a friend, a partner. He is a man who possesses the kind of moral fortitude that anyone would be proud of.”

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